1 August

Postdoc.Mobility Fellowship for Isabel Guerreiro

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Isabel Guerreiro has received a Postdoc.Mobility Fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation to extend her research stay in the Netherlands. The goal of this fellowship is to enable Swiss researchers to gain experience and independence abroad. Guerreiro will use the fellowship follow up on her studies in the group of Jop Kind, where she is studying gene regulation in individual cells during very early embryonic development.

 

Guerreiro did her PhD in Switzerland, in the group of Denis Duboule. During her PhD she studied the evolution of Hox gene regulation in vertebrates. Hox genes are genes that are activated sequentially during embryonic development and specify cell identity along the body axis from head to tail. After her PhD, Guerreiro moved to the Netherlands and joined the group of Jop Kind in 2016.

Gene regulation
During embryonic development one cell, the zygote, divides and differentiates giving rise to a complex organism made up of multiple organs and cell types. Since the DNA in each of those cells is identical, the complex events involved in animal development are mostly determined by the coordinated control of gene expression, both in time, the moment in development, and space, the place in the embryo. Multiple mechanisms are involved in gene regulation during animal development. For example, the nuclear lamina, a meshwork that coats the inside of the nucleus, has been reported to have a role in gene regulation. DNA sequences that contact the nuclear lamina are called lamina-associated domains (LADs) and contain generally lowly expressed genes.

Early development
During the first days of development, cells already ‘decide’ whether they will be part of the embryo or if, instead, they will form extraembryonic tissue such as the placenta. Although crucial for correct embryonic development, the changes in gene expression that occur during this time are poorly understood due to the small amount of available material. In addition, novel technologies that study individual cells have shown that the seemingly identical cells that will later give rise to distinct cell types are already different from each other on the molecular level.

Regulatory mechanisms
With the help of the Postdoc.Mobility Fellowship, Guerreiro will employ a technique that can identify important elements of gene regulation during the first days of embryonic development. This method can be combined with the corresponding gene expression readout in one single cell, and therefore the effects of the gene regulatory elements on gene expression can be studied. This technique will allow Guerreiro to bring insight into the regulatory mechanisms involved in the very first embryonic cell fate decisions with unprecedented resolution.

Banner image: lamina-associated domains (green) in the nucleus of multiple cells. Credit: Silke Lochs, Kind group, Hubrecht Institute